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Top mutual fund picks for RRSP season

INVESTMENT FUNDS REPORTER

With the RRSP deadline nearing on March 1, it's time to build up your nest egg again.

Because investors face an array of mutual fund choices for a registered retirement savings plan, we asked several analysts to give their top picks for conservative and aggressive investors.

James Gauthier vice-president of investment funds, DundeeWealth Inc.

CI Signature Dividend (conservative)

The Canadian dividend and income equity fund, which is co-run by John Shaw and John Hadwen of CI Investments Inc., owns mainly preferred shares and Canadian dividend stocks. With 40 per cent in preferred securities, the fund's volatility will be low, but "it still has the ability to provide a decent stream of income," Mr. Gauthier said. "The target monthly payout is 4 cents per unit, which equates to a yield of roughly 4 per cent annually."

Mutual Global Discovery (aggressive)

This deep-value global equity fund is co-managed by Peter Langerman and Philippe Brugère-Trélat of Mutual Series, a unit of Franklin Templeton Investments. The fund makes smaller bets to spread the risk, and currently has a big focus on "boring, high-yielding names" such as tobacco companies, Mr. Gauthier said. Because Canadians tend to be under-invested in foreign equities in their RRSPs, this fund is a good way to diversify, he added.

Dan Hallett director of asset management, HighView Financial Group

Steadyhand Founders Fund (conservative)

This nearly year-old tactical balanced fund is overseen by Tom Bradley, president of Steadyhand Investment Funds Inc., and contributor to Globe Investor. The fund is invested in other Steadyhand stock-and-bond funds run by external managers, but there is "no material fee-premium" for packaging them, Mr. Hallett said. The fund charges a fee of 1.34 per cent for a minimum investment of $10,000, and lower for higher amounts invested.

Mackenzie Cundill Recovery (aggressive)

This global small-to-mid-cap equity fund has been run since 1998 by James Morton of Singapore-based Santa Lucia Asset Management. It owns "relatively unknown companies" because of its focus on deep-value stocks, turnarounds, high-yielding securities and "value speculation" in more cyclical sectors, Mr. Hallett said. "While the fund has outpaced its benchmark by a wide margin since inception ... it's not been a smooth ride."

Dave Paterson fund analyst, D.A. Paterson & Associates Inc.

Steadyhand Income Fund (conservative)

The Canadian fixed-income balanced fund has been managed since 2007 by Brian Eby of Connor Clark & Lunn Investment Management Ltd. It owns mainly corporate and government bonds that can "take a lot of volatility out of an investor's portfolio," as well as high-yielding real estate investment trusts and dividend-paying stocks, Mr. Paterson said. The low-fee fund requires a minimum investment of $10,000.

Fidelity Small-Cap America Fund (aggressive)

Steve MacMillan of Fidelity Investments Canada took over the U.S. small-to-mid cap equity fund in 2011. It is nearly 60 per cent invested in health care, consumer discretionary and technology stocks. "Performance has been strong since the new manager took over," Mr. Paterson said. "Small- and mid-cap stocks can provide strong returns over the long term if you are willing to accept higher levels of volatility."

Salman Ahmed associate director, active funds research, Morningstar Canada

Mawer Balanced (conservative)

This global neutral balanced fund (formerly Mawer Canadian Balanced RSP Fund) is overseen by Greg Peterson of Mawer Investment Management, and invests in the institutional series of the Mawer stocks and bond funds. With a low fee of less than 1 per cent when purchased through most discount brokers, the fund will appeal to do-it-yourself investors, Mr. Ahmed said. The fund has minimum investment of $5,000.

Mackenzie Cundill Recovery (aggressive)

The contrarian approach taken by its Singapore-based manager will lead to the volatile emerging markets, Mr. Ahmed said. Seventy per cent of the fund is invested in Asia with stocks from countries such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, China and Indonesia, while the balance is focused on Europe. The volatility can mean "stretches of negative performance," but the fund has an annualized 10-per-cent gain over a decade, he added.

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ANALYST FAVOURITES FOR CONSERVATIVE AND AGGRESSIVE INVESTORS

Fund6-mo % rtn (Dec. 31)1-yr % rtn (Dec. 31)3-yr % rtn (Dec. 31)5-yr % rtn (Dec. 31)10-yr % rtn (Dec. 31)MERAssets ($-mil)Category
Mackenzie Cundill Recovery Fund 'C'10.29%15.55%2.66%-4.32%10.06%2.621085.4Global Small/Mid Cap Equity
Mutual Global Discovery Fund7.86%12.57%5.41%-0.32%2.77497.6Global Equity
Mawer Balanced7.04%11.40%7.98%4.22%6.91%0.96355.0Global Neutral Balanced
Steadyhand Founders Fund6.97%1.3439.4Tactical Balanced
CI Signature Dividend Fund6.40%9.58%5.94%3.87%5.80%1.88757.8Canadian Dividend and Income Equity
Fidelity Small-Cap America Fund-B6.16%19.85%15.34%5.05%4.58%2.33129.2U.S. Small or Mid Cap Equity
Steadyhand Income Fund4.23%7.97%8.67%7.44%1.0076.0Canadian Fixed Income Balanced
Source: Lipper

© 2007 The Globe and Mail. All rights reserved.

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